frankie knucklesI’m sure everyone has heard by now about the passing of a legend, Mr. Frankie Knuckles. Without him, House music would not be what it is today, and I’d like to take the time to focus on his contributions to this music and the world.

Many people believed rock-jock Steve Dahl when he organized an anti-disco rally at a Chicago White Sox game in 1979. Thousands of records were burned in an attempt to kill disco and many took it as an expression of hate against non-whites and homosexuals. This made a huge impact on the music industry by indoctrinating people on the idea that disco sucks. The reason, besides Dahl’s own apparent hatred, is unknown but theorized that it was actually the doing of higher-ups in the music industry who wished to manipulate things to their advantage. This ridiculous display unfortunately did stifle Disco and dance music for a while, but nobody can stop the heart of the city and burning a bunch of records definitely didn’t stop Disco and its evolution.

If anybody embodied the heart of Chicago most, it was Frankie Knuckles. He rescued disco music from the ashes, and he did it out of love for all people while never breaking a smile. Editing classic tracks by adding heavier electronic percussion rocked the dance floors of early House music clubs like the Warehouse, Sound Factory, and the Garage. His music was taking the old, mixing it with the future, and celebrating our time with each other in the present. He showed that blacks, latinos, whites, gay, and straight have something in common, the beats. Frankie Knuckles and his beats have spread globally and have shown the people of the world that America is a lot more diverse than the white, baseball loving image the media portrayed us as. He has brought people together and has subtlety made us more accepting of each other, without really saying a word about it. He did it all with music and did it all for you. A true master and humanitarian.

Frankie’s legacy will live on through the spread of House music but only if we guide the music correctly and use it for righteous purposes. We all know that EDM is big business these days and that variations of House music have been thrown under that umbrella. Even with the positive vibes and loving lyrics thrown into popular House- the expensive ticket prices, corporate sponsors, and lack of performance skills from the artists make it hard to believe that it’s about more than just money.

True House is still out there though, especially in Detroit and Chicago, and more people are getting into good House music everyday. I believe that Frankie Knuckles spirit and the spirit of House music are true expressions of nature and no money grabbing suits can ever touch that. With strong communities of House heads across the globe, we can preserve this genre and move it forward. Big business will not ruin House on our watch Frankie! Let’s make our Godfather proud.

KJDSunday, April 13th, I arrived home at 5:20AM after a night/morning at the Works. My feet were sore and my ears were still picking up a distant, imagined sound. At a certain point that morning, my legs took on a mind of their own – they were in control and I was a puppet to their flow. It amazes me that the body can assume this subconscious mastery of movement when given the influence of music. When we let ourselves go, we find ourselves again – we find ourselves in an entirely different way, different motion, different rhythm, a new creation, a new form and position of being. My experience at Konkrete Jungle Detroit’s “Rewind” was just that, finding myself. I find myself again when I am with my closest friends, when I am hearing my favorite music, when I am dancing like there’s no tomorrow. Every KJD experience is like this for me. It’s a night I look forward to for months. It’s a night that will never disappoint me. And I will always come home happily with aching feet and ringing ears.

I arrived at the Works around 11:30PM Saturday, April 12th. I had my lovely friend from Ohio with me. She comes up for every KJD show and I usually only see her when there is one. It’s that important to her and it’s that important to me – that we get together to experience this music. When we entered the Works, we were instantly met by two more near & dear friends. We moved to the speakers to greet others we only see at these events. Despite the frequency of these interactions, I call all of these people near & dear to me. We have known each other for years. We’ve seen each other grow and change. Every month or two at these shows, we see each other again and more words are added to our stories.

Konkrete Jungle Detroit’s own Ronin Selecta & Joey P. had a good amount of people gathered in front of the front room speakers. They were tag teamin’ DNB with perfect attention to what it needed to be. Ronin Selecta is one of the most learned drum n’ bass DJs I know. He stays on top of the newest releases and presents them with tact. Joey P. comes up with some of the heaviest, dirtiest tracks I’ve heard and sets ‘em down like they’re on fire. Naw, fiyah! This is that junglist fiyah and it’s spreading through the room, igniting spirits and bodies! The two badass DJs from Ann Arbor handled their mixing like craftsman. And I swear they must have been collaborating on their track selection for quite some time. Or were just incredibly in sync with each other and the audience, which would be expected of two KJD staples.

When I hear DNB or jungle, I am instantly in a trance. My feet pick up and my hips start shakin’. I can’t help it! Music I enjoy penetrates the shell I wear and spreads inside me like a warm liquid. Whiskey does this for people. Tea does this for people. Jungle does this for me. I am warmed to the very core and I feel completely at ease. My body relaxes and I am able to move freely. Everything inside me begins to move with the music, like it is swept up by that warm liquid and it is rushing through me. Already, I was riding the waves through a powerful sea and I couldn’t think of any place I’d rather be. Then I remembered the back room. I tore myself away from Ronin and Joey and wandered into the hall. Bass began to rattle me. I stepped into the back and was momentarily discombobulated. There were lasers flashing about and there was a bright screen behind the DJ booth where twisted, trippy visuals were careening. Oktored was tucked behind the left speaker, creating and conducting the projection. Calico was standing behind CDJs on stage, a dark figure in front of the visual display. His music is undefinable but it can be described as dark heavy bass. It’s as if he were controlling these giant organic machines, finessing his control panel as an expert machinist. There was a crowd in front of this and they were wide-eyed and awestruck.

Back in the front room, Joey P. handed the speakers over to DJ V1rus. I saw V1rus the Tuesday prior at a Comfort Food show. He wowed me with his mastery of the turntables. V1rus brought that fine turntablism to the Works with some hip hop, b-boy funk, and a whole bag of goodies. I heard A Tribe Called Quest mixed with Portishead and it blew my mind. At one point I even heard a Bonobo track. I loved being able to groove to the tunes. Beside me, two b-boys got down to the floor and were flyin’. They were spinnin’ into some helicopters and jumpin’ back up to lay down some fancy footwork. The great creation of music through mixin’, cuttin’ and scratchin’ inspires this great creation of movement through break-dancing. Hell, regular dancing is pretty great too. And we junglists can get down wit some footwork. DJ V1rus provided the inspiration to do so.

In the back room, Jared Wilson was playing an acid house set. I shook off some of that V1rus fever with a few pleasant dance partners. It was great that two totally diverse genres of music were going off in the front and back, and both rooms were full of incredibly appreciative people. They demonstrated their love for the music with smiles, vibes, and movement. I was touched to see this. In the front room, Brian Gillespie took over as a last minute stand-in for Scott Zacharias. He kept the b-boy crew goin’ with disco, breaks, and funk. And I couldn’t help not to bust out some moves for some beats. Though I’d been looking forward to a particular set and went back to the back.

Konkrete Jungle Detroit’s Mark “8en” Moss promised a 91′-93′ UK hardcore breakbeat set and Damn, did he deliver! Mark Moss has been impressing me lately – a few weeks ago with an old school techno set, and then this terrific old school hardcore/jungle set. I watched this guy perform and I could imagine him digging through crates of records for those perfect pairs, chiseling down to just the thing he was looking for. My girl friends and I were in front of the left speaker, gettin’ down like it’s nothin’. These are those moments that last forever in your spirit. We would never forget that feeling. I had been sober all night but I felt drunk with the spirit within me. There is pride in this city, with these people, and I knew that night I was seeing a beautiful demonstration of this. And I felt pride in being a part of it.

At 2:30AM, Soundmurderer & SK-1 appeared on stage. I could feel the fascinated anticipation collecting in the room. These two men are jungle legends, absolutely prolific to the genre. If you are a jungle fan like I am, you know their music. I am ecstatic every chance I get to see them. And to have KJD bring so many influential genres into one venue for one night to build up to this was righteous. Soundmurderer is just one of the aliases of Todd Osborn, a man who accumulated a vast musical repertoire as proprietor of the Ann Arbor record store, Dubplate Pressure. He has been producing old-school ragga jungle as Soundmurderer since before it was “old school” and created the label Rewind! Records to share it. Tadd Mullinex (SK-1) also hails from Ann Arbor. Under the name Dabrye, he’s been releasing albums on Ghostly International, another A2 record label. Dabrye is well-known for his instrumental hip hop. The two, as Soundmurderer & SK-1, have been feeding the scene with classic jungle for years and they played each one of those ground-breaking hits for us. I was in that wonderful warming trance again. My body was a puppet to the flow. “Bad Sound”, “Tel’embodanustyle”, “Dangerous”, “Call da Police!” Everybody scream! On the projector, Oktored distorted clips from Fantastic Planet, King of the Hill, and dancing kitty videos. I laughed. MC Bombscare had the mic and was raisin’ the roof for these fellas. I couldn’t be happier. Legends killin’ sound on the decks, visual artistry behind them, and a wordsmithin’ MC bringin’ up the roar – this was Konkrete Jungle Detroit!

My feet were hurtin’ so bad, but I couldn’t stop dancin’. Soundmurderer & SK-1 finished up though we begged them not to. KJD’s Dilemma stepped in to take control. I thought I’d have a break but he decided to throw down some hardcore jungle too and I had to keep goin’. I escaped for a breather in the front room. DJ Raw Wave had his blend of new disco/new wave pumpin’ up those who couldn’t take the jungle awesomeness. But I was not one of those people and I returned to the back. Dilemma had us goin’ like a room full of Energizer Bunnies, powered up by wonderfully complex rhythms. And we kept goin’ till the music stopped. It was 5AMish and the sound shut down, but I could still hear the noise. I’d even been wearing my fancy ear plugs. I gathered my senses and my friends and we lolly-gagged to the door. We were all elate with the experience and still trembling from the music. Though we went our separate ways into the night. We left fueled by the passion we have for music and for each other. We left with a greater sense of who we are and what we came to do. We found ourselves again. And we will always look forward to the next show.

CFDWhen I arrived at TV Lounge just after midnight, DJ Psycho was rockin’ the beat, slappin’ down tracks like nobody’s business. It was the kind of night that called for a celebration – a celebration of spring, of friendship, music, and warmth. Time to get out for fresh air, conversation, and tunes. When I heard Comfort Food Detroit was taking their unique combination of talent downtown, I knew where I needed to be. Friday, April 11th, Comfort Food brought good reason to celebrate to the TV Lounge – a delicious blend of quality artists, catered by class act favorites.

Here’s a run down of the line-up before midnight: Abby B. & DJyarsch opened in the front and back. Abby played some house-driven R&B. DJyarsch served up some trip hop, hip hop, the whole gamut of hop. Mel Wonder & Teej played next, both I’ve seen and highly respect. Mel is a woman who deserves the limelight. She’s got Detroit hip hop classics on lock and she’ll impress the best. I have a special place in my heart for a woman who knows what to do with wax. Teej has been producing for a minute and I dig his style. I’ve heard it described as “psychedelic instrumental hip hop” and I couldn’t agree more. Keep him on your radar if you know what’s good for ya.

The afternoon of Friday, April 11th, it was 65 degrees and sunny. I had been outside on the river walk, running in shorts and a tee past happy people in the heat. I could see this joy radiating off everyone, sparkles in the light reflecting off their faces. The night was warm and fresh. It was the first night of the year I could enjoy some patio time at TV. Outside, bare-skinned and smiling we were in our spring jackets, happiness radiating and reflecting off our faces. After having survived the winter, throwing on a lighter jacket feels like slipping into a swim suit. Even a little heat is bliss after putting up with 30 below wind chills, disastrous driving conditions, massive amounts of snow & ice, and apocalypse-esque hysteria for months. I say to my friends, let us rejoice!

I had some buddies from out-of-town join me that night. It was my home boy’s birthday and he was ready to celebrate with an idol of his, DJ Psycho. Psycho is an idol to anyone who appreciates turntablism. Not only can he scratch with his shoe (yeah, I’ve seen it myself), his track selection is top-shelf, premium, grade A. He throws up some old school hip hop, juggles some breaks, and like the master he is, mixes it up with some funky jazzy techno. Much respect for DJ Psycho! He never disappoints, on the contrary, he always amazes.

In the front room DJ Moppy was representin’ Chicago with a soulful collaboration of house, funk, and hip hop. He knows what’s up and he uses a skill with vinyl to bring it to you, the crowd. A good DJ should embody those traits: musical aptitude, technical skill, and a desire to bring that to people. I didn’t know much about DJ Moppy that night other than he had shaggy hair, a beard, black glasses, and a newsboy cap. I enjoyed his set and could tell he was feeling the crowd, though, unfortunately, I could not see much of what he was doing with his records. High DJ booths at TV make it difficult for me to enjoy the craft of turntablism. And this guy knows the craft. Look him up. He has a live production group called Beyond Luck who released a 7” record in 2013 and will have a full length release in 2014.

Back in the back room, Bruce Bailey was queued up. He brought it home with some Detroit house jams, mixed smooth and in tune. Bruce had the room going till after 2AM. I was shakin’ myself around on the dance floor with my home girl and this woman comes up and shouted through the sound, “I never want the music to end!” She danced around us in her red stilettos, a giant grin peering through her red lipstick. I looked at my friend and we laughed because she said just what we were thinking. We never want the music to end. We never want a good night to end. We want to keep dancing. We want to keep celebrating. We want the days to stay sunny and the nights to stay warm.

Spring’s the time of year when we get back in our groove. We return to movement, to the outdoors, to being active and showing skin. As the days grow longer and warmer, our spirits grow gradually more and more renewed. We shed thick, calloused layers and reveal our damp awakening selves – the ice melts and the earth is exposed. Though to be honest, I’m not so sure my renewed spirit is as resilient as it claims to be. And aren’t we all a bit apprehensive about this warm weather? Not trusting that it’ll stick. Always fearing the next day will be freezing. Who can blame us? We’ve all endured the worst winter Detroit has seen in forever and suddenly these beautiful days appear and the snow disappears. We feel so naked when the ice melts and reveals ourselves. But we have each other to experience this awakening with, and the music brings us together to do so.